Can We Talk: Sue Hodgson Talks with Category 12 Brewing

2014 was the inaugural year for the brewery; you have gone from a self-built tasting room, selling out of your first beer completely, to already having produced nine beers within the year. How will you continue competing successfully in the rapidly growing craft beer market?
The challenges presented by the explosion of growth in the craft beer market are something we embrace; we’re never satisfied with the status quo and thrive on creativity, whether that be with our beers and branding or making efficient use of the time and equipment we have. As a husband and wife team, we each bring different strengths (and palates!) to the table that will help us create an exciting line up of beers that we’re proud to share.

Michael, you grew up on the island going to Parklands as well as UVic. How has your schooling shaped the person you are today, and led you here after 20 years in the fields of scientific research and software?
I was very fortunate to have excellent teachers throughout my school experience. In particular Mr. Giles (my high school chemistry teacher) and Dr. Kay (my thesis supervisor) demonstrated that passion, capability, and humour weren’t mutually exclusive with a science career. My attention to detail and desire to tinker seemed a natural fit for that path, and are as essential to being a brewery owner as they are working in a science lab. I’ve also learned that persistence is key, which definitely helped win my wife over when proposing the career transition!

Category 12 has developed some unique branding; how does this represent you as entrepreneurs and encompass your personalities?
The branding of our brewery is something very close to our hearts. In fact, it was the very first element we embarked upon. It was important to us to have a consistent look and feel to our graphics, while giving a nod to Michael’s background. Our favourite description, from a customer, calls the feel our graphics create “Mad Men meets Breaking Bad”. We feel our branding is something that can grow with us as we expand our line up.

With your main brew house equipment being made right around the corner from your Keating location, how has this local stamp made an impact on your business and influenced the buying decisions of other key ingredients in your beers?
Supporting local is something we feel strongly about in our personal lives, and since we see the brewery as an extension of all the things we love it was only natural to make an effort to utilize as many local companies as possible. We’ve had fantastic relationships with many of our contractors during our build out, and look forward to being able to “join forces” with our local agricultural producers as our business grows.

Category 12 prides itself on being “genuine to the taste buds” and sharing beers with customers that staff personally love. Which are your favourite beers produced and how does this contribute to the brewery’s philosophy?
We’re passionate about what we do, and that starts with loving the beers that we make! Karen’s discovery of Belgian beers a few years ago was a major motivating factor in getting the brewery off the ground as a team; it’s also the reason our Unsanctioned Saison is a year-rounder (saisons are traditionally a seasonal style). Michael’s love of hoppy, west-coast style IPA’s is on a different spectrum – we provide both “families” of beers to ensure marital happiness as well as interesting consumer selection. We look forward to continually experimenting, which is why we have a small “staple” selection in addition to our constantly changing seasonals. We’re proud of the fact that we’ve had seven beers on tap at the brewery for several weeks now!

After another Great Canadian Beer Week in Victoria and with a new year already approaching us, can we keep an eye out for any new and exciting ideas on the horizon for C12?
Indeed! We’ve just launched our own crowdfunding campaign ( to give our community a chance to be a part of our growth and exploration as we embark upon a barrel aging program. There are a lot of options that we’re excited to offer! It’s a unique opportunity that hasn’t been done in Victoria, and we know that there are going to be a lot of excited supporters of both beer and small business.

We are celebrating small business in this issue of Seaside Magazine. What tips or advice can you pass along about starting a business on the Saanich Peninsula?
We love the quote from Jim Treliving of Dragons’ Den fame (or notoriety?): paraphrasing, it’s that he makes decisions about work with his heart, about money with his head, and about people with his gut. Add a lot of homework to that formula (hard to leave Michael’s background behind entirely!) and it sums up how we’ve approached making this massive leap of faith to pursue our passion.

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